Europe’s second coronavirus wave is spreading, and rising hospitalizations and deaths are prompting governments to impose more restrictions, from travel bans in Madrid to the closure of bars in Paris.
Confirmed cases in France, Spain, and the U.K. are now higher on an average day than at the peak of this spring’s emergency, although the trend also reflects better detection of the virus. Infections also have accelerated in Italy and Germany in recent days.
The health crisis isn’t as acute as in March and April, when hospitals in the worst-hit regions of Italy and Spain didn’t have enough intensive-care beds to treat all severely ill Covid-19 patients. But European authorities are worried that the strain on hospitals could return.
European governments, anxious to sustain the continent’s economic recovery from its sharp contraction this spring, continue to rule out a return to full-blown lockdowns and are relying on lighter restrictions on socializing and movement.
French official Monday announced new restrictions in the Paris region, where infections are rising quickly and some 36% of life-support beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients.
The measures, which take effect Tuesday and run for at least two weeks, include the closure of Paris bars and the imposition of strict, new hygiene rules for restaurants. Gyms and swimming pools for adults must also shut. Public drinking and outdoor amplified music is forbidden after 10 p.m. University student parties are banned, and occupancy during lessons will be halved, with students rotating between those attending in person and remotely.
“Life should be able to continue, albeit not quite as before,” said Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, announcing the measures.
Italian regional authorities also imposed new measures at the weekend, from compulsory mask-wearing on the streets of Rome to an 11 p.m. curfew on bars in Naples. The national government is considering extending those measures to the whole country.
Italy has been alarmed by a sudden surge in daily infections to over 2,600, compared with levels of roughly 1,500 for much of September. Most people currently testing positive have mild or no symptoms, but the number who need hospital treatment is rising.
“The enemy hasn’t been defeated yet,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said over the weekend. He called on Italians not to waste the progress against the virus that the country achieved with its stringent lockdown this spring.
New Covid-19 cases in Germany, which have been trending slowly up since mid-July, rose sharply last week, hitting 2,731 on 1 Oct., the highest level since April. Germany’s disease-control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, said parties and family gatherings, including weddings, birthdays and funerals, were the main sources of new infections.
In Madrid, currently one of Europe’s hardest-hit cities, the rise in Covid-19 patients in hospitals has prompted the government to ban nonessential travel to and from the city. Restaurants have to close by 11 p.m., and social gatherings of more than six people are forbidden.
Spain, which has been struggling to contain Europe’s biggest outbreak, is recording more than 10,000 daily cases on average, a more than 10-fold increase since July. Deaths from Covid-19, which during the summer rarely exceeded 10 a day, have risen to more than 120 a day.
In Belgium’s capital of Brussels, hospitals over the weekend began redirecting coronavirus patients to other parts of the country, to keep beds free for patients with conditions other than Covid-19. The number of daily new infections in Belgium has surpassed 2,000, up from around 500 a day in August.
The U.K. recorded on average more than 8,500 cases a day over the seven days through Oct. 1—five times the rate recorded a month earlier. In that time, hospital admissions have tripled to around 380 a day and deaths have risen to 40 a day from fewer than 10.
Figures show the virus is spreading fastest in parts of northern England, prompting public-health authorities to introduce localized restrictions banning gatherings and closing pubs in cities such as Liverpool, Warrington and Hartlepool. Nationwide, Britons have been told not to gather in groups of more than six people and bars and restaurants must close by 10 p.m.
“We’ve got to continue to bear down on this virus whilst protecting the economy,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday.
—Bertrand Benoit in Berlin, Jason Douglas in London and Valentina Pop in Brussels contributed to this article.
Write to Margherita Stancati at [email protected] and Sam Schechner at [email protected]
Second Covid-19 Wave Rolls Through Europe The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ WSJ.